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Ask Alice — Advice for All: The Importance of Doing the Right Thing

Dear Alice,


I have a very upsetting dilemma. My daughter, who just started her junior year in high school, told me over the summer that her former best friend, whose mother is one of my closest friends, has been selling marijuana. I was aware that my daughter had distanced herself from her friend for quite some time, mistakenly assuming they were in different cliques. But it was only when my friend asked about our daughters’ estrangement that I questioned her. My daughter reluctantly told me what was going on and made me promise not to tell my friend, because she’s worried about enraging her old friend and possible retaliation.

Dear Alice,  

 

I have a very upsetting dilemma. My daughter, who just started her junior year in high school, told me over the summer that her former best friend, whose mother is one of my closest friends, has been selling marijuana. I was aware that my daughter had distanced herself from her friend for quite some time, mistakenly assuming they were in different cliques. But it was only when my friend asked about our daughters’ estrangement that I questioned her. My daughter reluctantly told me what was going on and made me promise not to tell my friend, because she’s worried about enraging her old friend and possible retaliation.


I agreed not to tell, but now have second thoughts.


I’m worried that by not saying anything and keeping this information under wraps, more harm will come to their family, whom I care deeply about. But my daughter is most important to me, and I know she will be angry with me and feel I am betraying her trust. I need your advice. 

 

Agitated



Dear Agitated,

 

I recognize your dilemma, but you have a responsibility to inform your friend. You are not choosing their family over yours, but doing the right thing for everyone.

 

Tell your daughter you were wrong to agree not to tell your friend. She will learn that upon reflection, we can change our minds on important issues.

 

Explain that you won’t say from whom you learned the details, even though your friend will certainly suspect your daughter. If your friend pushes you for an answer, say that focusing on who told you would be evading the important issue, which is the seriousness of her daughter’s actions.

 

The best way of handling this is to address it directly. You will be teaching your daughter that she has shown great caring to try to stop the dangerous behavior of her former friend. Sometimes things get “messy” when we have to intervene, but by knowing information and doing nothing, we become part of the problem and take some responsibility for a bad outcome. It is the same as being a bystander and doing nothing.

 

Even if your friend “shoots the messenger” and stops speaking to you, rest assured that you have been a true friend. She may experience shame that such a thing has happened in her family and not be able to continue her relationship with you due to her discomfort. This is the least of the problems she’s likely to have if nothing is done.

 

Be strong and recognize how admirable your behavior is. As a result of your conversation, her daughter may get the help she needs to resume a healthy, law-abiding life.

 

— Alice


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